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Services Departments Government

Planning Commission Minutes
Oct. 10, 2016
6:30 p.m., DSB Auditorium

Commissioners present: Mark Meek, Brian Pasko, Michael Wilson, Tom Peterson, John Gray, Mark Fitz.

Commissioners absent: Michael Wagner, John Drentlaw, Gail Holmes.

Staff present: Jennifer Hughes, Karen Buehrig, Scott Hoelscher, Darcy Renhard.

  1. Commission Chair Meek called the meeting to order at 6:36 p.m.
  2. This public hearing is for consideration of ZDO-259, a Comprehensive Plan amendment related to the Monroe Neighborhood Street Design Plan, which is a part of the Active Transportation Plan (ATP).
  3. The goal of making changes to the Monroe neighborhood plan is to develop a street design that improves safety and travel conditions for all types of transportation, but especially for children who would be using the new travel modes to walk or cycle to Whitcomb Elementary school. The ideal would be to have a safe transportation module for all types of travel without causing more difficulty for motorists. Karen Buehrig explained in further detail why the Monroe project is being considered instead of other streets in the ATP.

    Scott Hoelscher described the public outreach that was involved in this project. County staff held open houses, did email blasts and mailings, provided press releases, there was a public advisory committee and a technical advisory committee, staff put door hangers on local residences and canvassed the neighborhood in addition to doing surveys and sending out questionnaires. The public outreach on this project was quite extensive. In the end, there was a lot of feedback that speeding is a concern and that the local residents would prefer to keep the Monroe “Gap” closed. They would like to have the ability to walk and bike in the neighborhood with less concern of being hit by a speeding vehicle. They would like on-street parking in some areas, and a safe walking route to Whitcomb Elementary is highly desired. Staff partnered with Whitcomb Elementary staff to develop an action plan. The actual corridor stretches from Linwood Ave. to I-205 and is divided into different segments, each with recommended improvements. The main design features are a separated path from Linwood to Fuller; traffic-slowing devices (bioswales, chicanes, raised crossings, etc.), and possibly a mini roundabout at the intersection of Monroe and 72nd. We have heard from reside4nts that this intersection is notorious for cars careening off of the road and onto private property.

    At the study session, the Planning Commission asked why King Road wasn’t considered for this project instead of Monroe. Scott answered that there are substandard bike lanes and high speed traffic on King Road and that it is not a safe environment for children and families or less experienced cyclists. Crash data was provided in the handouts, and the project costs are included in the staff report.

    Karen explained that regarding the Monroe Gap, the County has a right-of-way that connects Monroe to about 78th, but that it is not improved for vehicles. We have added additional language that if traffic conditions in the future warrant making the Monroe Gap into a connections, then it would be an option at that time.

    Right now that total cost for the project from Linwood to the I-205 path is about $6 million. There are additional project costs associated with 72nd and Thompson improvements. A portion of the funding is available through the North Clackamas Revitalization District, as the Monroe portion of the project is within this district. We could also get local funding to help supplement the costs. Commissioner Gray asked what the timeline is for this project to move forward. Karen replied that it would most likely be around 2019-2021.

    The proposal before the Commission has several elements. There are amendments to the Comprehensive Plan appendices that would add this project to Appendix B and to the higher priority list on the ATP. Staff recommends that the Planning Commission recommend approval of ZDO-259 with the amendment that is included in 1D, and also recommends that the Planning Commission recommend approval to the Comprehensive Plan Maps that are shown in the attachments.

    Scott Hoelscher added two new exhibits to the record.

    Commissioner Pasko asked why we would consider spending the money to improve the Gap for pedestrians if we are going to look at making it accessible for vehicles in the future. Aren’t we just wasting money on something that is inevitable? Commissioner Fitz wanted to know why we would be taking money and spending it on a road if the road isn’t needed. Karen explained that right now there is not enough neighborhood support to make it vehicle friendly. Another reason is that it improves the safety if it is used as a pedestrian route. Commissioner Fitz is completely in support of the bioswales, green streets, safety, and other improvements, but does not think that the residents want more traffic routed through their neighborhood. Commissioner Pasko asked what the impacts would be to other nearby routes. Karen replied that by putting traffic calming elements in this area, it will slow everything down throughout the area. Commissioner Gray asked if there was any commitment from Tri-Met since they may be able to use this as a bus route. Karen answered that at this time we do not. There is really no perfect solution at this time. Commissioner Fitz asked if is reasonable to say that we estimate 90% of the traffic that is generated is by people who live in this area. Karen answered that yes, it is a road that connects from 82nd all the way to Milwaukie, so local resident and those who live in Milwaukie would be the primary users. Commissioner Fitz asked about the City of Milwaukie’s intent to put a diverter at the Monroe/Linwood intersection (right turn in, right turn out only) and wouldn’t this change the dynamic of traffic so that traffic calming elements would be more effective? Karen explained that the intent is to create a parallel route to King Road that allows more accessibility and safety for pedestrians and cyclists, but that would also allow for vehicle access. The City of Milwaukie adopted their plan a year ago.

    Chair Meek opened the public testimony portion of the hearing.

    Paul Ciri (6709 SE Monroe, Milwaukie)—Mr. Ciri informed the Planning Commission that there is a direct route off of Maplehurst to Causey, so the Thompson route is not necessary. This is a farming community now, so he would hate to see concrete being laid everywhere. He especially dislikes the idea of chicanes. And there is no need to add on-street parking. These are all large lots, so everyone has their own parking. He would rather not have chicanes, but he feels that he could live with the rest of the proposed changes. All of the chicanes that were installed on 70th are now nothing but garbage collectors that are full of weeds. And there are hardly any bikes that actually use the bike path that is already there. 

    Evan Goley (11065 SE 75th Court, Milwaukie) – Mr. Goley is bothered by the fact that there was no opportunity at the public meetings to ask questions as a community. The Linwood diverter is a serious concern. If appears to him that Clackamas County actually owns this intersection, not the City of Milwaukie. He is also concerned that the walkways around Whitcomb are not adequate for children. He would vote no on the plan as a whole, as you rarely see a cyclist on the route that is already there.

    Emily Sirkin (7851 SE Thompson Rd.) – The right-of-way has already been taken all along Section 7 of the plan (Thompson Rd.), and she feels that it would actually open up traffic if you separate the bicycle lane from the road. By taking 50 feet instead of 32, it makes it feel even more like a big, giant thoroughfare. Thompson Road feeds schools, and there are people walking their kids to school, but traffic still goes flying by at really high speeds. She would prefer to see more traffic enforcement and sidewalks along Thompson rather than opening it up even more.

    Debra Dietch (7969 SE Thompson Road, Milwaukie) – The south side of Thompson Road already has a sidewalk, and there is a bike lane on the other side of the street. Adding another sidewalk will make her driveway too short to park her car. Speed calming methods would automatically reduce traffic on Thompson Road, which is not all local traffic. A lot of it is those drivers who are trying to avoid Harmony and King Roads. 

    Commissioner Gray asked what kind of commitment the County has made with regard to maintenance of the bioswales. Karen answered that our transportation maintenance department works to maintain the streets. Bioswales are a new feature, so they are currently working with Water Environment Services to determine how maintenance works and how the two groups can coordinate.

    Richard Chroninger (6504 SE Jack Road, Milwaukie) – Mr. Kroninger is concerned about the diverter. He is worried that with the diverter in place, people heading south on Linwood will cut down Jack Road to beat the diverter. He would propose that there be a four-way stop at Monroe and Linwood instead of a diverter. He is fully in support of adding speed bumps to slow traffic down.

    Dan Cleary (6676 SE Monroe, Milwaukie) – The diverter is going to have a very negative effect on the County side of Monroe. Monroe is one of the few streets that goes from 82nd to Milwaukie. He suggests punching a road through Cartasegna Farm and adding a lot of speed bumps, especially between 66th and 72nd. That strip of road is a straight race track even though it is a 25 mph zone. His vote is to stop this project and add curbs and sidewalks on Monroe instead of paths.

    Christen Christner (10843 SE 73rd Court, Milwaukie) – Ms. Christner is opposed to opening the Monroe Gap. If improvements do happen, people will start selling houses and moving out of the area. They are not part of Milwaukie or Happy Valley, so it is really hard to get any kind of enforcement in the area. She is completely opposed to the project in its entirety.

    Chair Meek closed the public testimony portion of the hearing and opened deliberations.

    Commissioner Wilson asked what happens to the funding if the Planning Commission recommends denial and the BCC agrees. Scott explained that the project was funded through a grant from ODOT to prepare this plan and bring it to the PC and BCC. If it is not adopted, the cross section for Monroe would be the typical cross section that is currently applied to all collector roads. It would be much more expensive in the long run because of the acquisition of right-of-way, so we would probably back away from this project completely for the time being. What is lost by not adopting plan, or this plan with revisions, would be the work that was done with the community and a plan that would provide a place for cyclists as well as slowing traffic in the area. Because this project is a part of so many different plans, it is very competitive for funding. Commissioner Pasko asked if it is possible to provide a design that uses a smaller right-of-way. Karen explained that we have already trimmed it down to only have bioswales on one side. Currently the County actually owns a 50-foot right-of-way. Commissioner Peterson asked if some of these issues could be addressed during the actual design process, which would have a more public input. Karen answered that if this project went into the design phase, they would open up the plan and take a look at what would make sense. We are not locked in to one specific design plan. Commissioner Pasko is concerned that there is not one single person who showed up in support of this project.

    Chair Meek asked if there is a motion. Commissioner Peterson feels that the Planning Commission should take a position against the diverter, even though it is not part of our plan. Commissioner Fitz likes that this project would bring an increase in property values, but does not like that the punch through of the gap is put off on the 20-year list. Commissioner Gray feels that the right-of-way width really needs to be skinnier. Commissioner Pasko thinks that we are throwing a lot of tax money into an area that is going to end up just benefiting another jurisdiction who will eventually annex the area in. There was no aspect that people seemed to favor, other than speed bumps. He doesn’t understand the broader benefits if you don’t have people even using this area as a bike route. Chair Meek feels similar to Commissioner Pasko and thinks that any improvements in the area are not going to increase potential development other than what is already there. He would like to see more money spent on arterials that get people home quicker rather than spending it along Fuller. Commissioner Peterson stated that it would be taking advantage of an opportunity that you might not otherwise have for funding. It is not taking away from other potential projects.

    Commissioner Peterson made a motion to recommend approval with the conditions that there be additional citizen involvement during the project design phase, and that the Planning Commission make a statement against the use of a diverter on Linwood and Monroe, and to deal with it as an intersection with traffic controls. There is no second.

    Commissioner Pasko moved to recommend not moving forward with this project because there are too many unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Commissioner Gray seconds the motion. Ayes=7; motion passes.

  4. Jennifer Hughes asked if there is any interest in the County transportation safety initiatives, such as Drive to Zero, the Traffic Safety Committee, etc. All Planning Commissioners who are present would like more information.
  5. Our next meeting will be on Nov. 14.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:27 p.m.

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